The conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs living in the Hamas-led Gaza Strip prompted rallies in support of each side Monday at City Hall.
Supporters of Israel, largely elected officials including many from Queens, gathered at the foot of the steps to the building, while a crowd backing Arab Palestinians massed a few yards away at the edge of the gated plaza to denounce the Jewish state.
The officials, along with members of Jewish organizations, said Israel has the right to protect itself against rocket attacks from Gaza by launching military strikes there, while the pro-Palestinian side accused the country of committing genocide against Arabs as part of an aggressive, expansionist Zionism.
The ongoing fighting between Israel and Arabs in Gaza was prompted by the murders of three Jewish teenagers, which Israel blamed on Hamas — the group that governs the territory but is considered a terrorist organization by Tel Aviv and Washington — and the retaliatory slaying of a Palestinian youth, allegedly by three Israelis. The Israelis have been charged in the Arab teen’s killing but no one has been arrested for the triple homicide.
Militants in Gaza began launching hundreds of rockets into Israel after the Arab boy’s killing, and Israel has responded with airstrikes. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed but only two Israelis, due at least in part to the Jewish state’s antimissile defense systems and its vastly superior weaponry.
Among those saying Israel is right to defend the safety of its people by military means were several Queens lawmakers and Borough President Melinda Katz.
Counterprotesters said the officials do not speak for all city residents and compared the Israeli government’s use of force against Gazan militants to the Ku Klux Klan’s murders of black Americans, especially that of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old whose killing in 1955 galvanized the civil rights movement.
Dueling rallies between supporters of Israel and the Arab Palestinians have been held recently in a number of U.S. cities including San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, as well as Toronto, with the anti-Jewish side engaging in violence in several instances.